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Football: Serie A's fight for Europe begins in earnest

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Juventus may have won their 29th Scudetto but the battle for Serie A's lower placings, and the rich pickings they could offer at the end of the month will begin in earnest on Wednesday.

A full programme of Serie A action is on the cards and while Juventus travel to Atalanta knowing the Scudetto is theirs for the second successive year, for a handful of other clubs the season is far from over.

Napoli, 11 points adrift of Juve with three games remaining, travel to Bologna hoping to grab the three points that would secure the runners-up spot which guarantees Champions League football next season.

AC Milan, who are seven points behind the Neapolitans, are away to already-relegated Pescara knowing any kind of slip-up could give Fiorentina a chance of eventually pipping the Rossoneri to third place, for which the reward is a spot in the Champions League play-off round.

For Roma, any such dreams faded months ago.

But Aurelio Andreazzoli's men, who remained fifth on Saturday thanks to a late 1-0 win at home to Fiorentina, have it all to do if they are to finish either fourth or fifth and claim a place in next season's Europa League.

Roma have a total of 58 points, and a cushion of one point on Udinese, three on city rivals Lazio and five on Inter Milan, who have dropped to eighth.

Milan will kick off proceedings in Wednesday's earlier match, and coach Massimiliano Allegri has called for nothing less than a win.

"We picked up three very important points against Torino and now we have a match ball against Pescara in what is another crucial game," Allegri said.

"It won't be easy ... but if we win in Pescara then we really stand an excellent chance of finishing third because we will have a four-point lead with just two games to play."

The thought of seven-time European champions Milan not qualifying for Europe's premier club competition has riled club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi to the point that reports claim Allegri will be sacked if they finish outside the top three.

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella, meanwhile, gave Allegri a much-needed boost.

"When you consider where we are right now, the Champions League looks tough for us," said Montella. "All we can do is try to win our three remaining games."

Fiorentina have played some of the league's most entertaining football this season and have a relatively easy run-in with matches against Siena (away), Palermo (home) and Pescara (away), while Milan's final two games come against Roma (home) and Siena (away).

However La Viola will be without forward Alberto Aquilani for at least a week after he picked up a knee injury against Roma, and they suffered a further blow on Monday when influential forward Adem Ljajic was handed a two-match ban for insulting the referee at the weekend.

Although Roma's dreams of an unlikely late charge for a Champions League spot were reined in by Milan's 1-0 win over Torino, Andreazzoli's side need a win over Chievo if they are to hold off Udinese, who travel to lowly Palermo.

In-form Udinese have won their last five league outings, during which time veteran striker Antonio Di Natale has jumped up to second in the league's scoring charts with 20 goals behind only Napoli's Edinson Cavani (26).

Inter, meanwhile, look to have the toughest task of the lot.

Andrea Stramaccioni's side has been decimated by injury in recent weeks and months and host a Lazio side that put six unanswered goals past Bologna on Sunday, five coming courtesy of German veteran Miroslav Klose.

Fixtures (kick-off times GMT)

Pescara v Milan (1600)

Roma v Chievo, Atalanta v Juventus, Bologna v Napoli, Cagliari v Parma, Inter v Lazio, Palermo v Udinese, Sampdoria v Catania, Siena v Fiorentina, Torino v Genoa (all 1845)

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